What It Means to Just Be Yourself and How to Do It
Everyone speaks of the importance of being yourself, but what does that mean? Is being depressed you? Is being angry you? Is being crazy you? Is being shy you? Who is “you”? And once you’ve discovered that, how do you enact it?
The True You
As I see it, we were born with an essence; a soul and a heart. The soul carries some of our memories in addition to our essence, but the heart is pure. It’s really our true nature (metaphorically speaking).
Now, we don’t just have a heart though, we also have an ego and a brain. These are necessary as they helps us function in life by subconsciously storing everything we’ve been through and analyzing it to come up with survival mechanisms.
For example, you put your hand on a nettle and your brain goes “ouch” that hurt. Next time you see a nettle your brain alerts you to danger.
The problem is if a boy hurt you, next time you see a boy, your brain tells you it’s danger time and either you will step away from it, or provoke the “danger” to act as a danger, so as to prove your beliefs to be true. After all, if you treat someone as if they were dangerous, they respond to that. Alternatively, even if you don’t manage to provoke them, you’ll still misread the situation and walk away thinking something that didn’t happen just did. Chances are also you’ll be more attracted to the people who prove your beliefs to be true. Kind of like looking for yellow cars – your brain looks for what it knows. And once you see them you feel comfortable with them because they fit into your belief system. So they feel comfortable/attractive even though they’re actually not good for you.
Of course, your brain registers there are more than one boy in this life and all act differently, but if several people in our childhood, or a big influence in our childhood, act a certain way, our brain seems to get stuck on that. Kind of like people who nearly drown, then panic so much at the feel of water in a bathtub they almost drown themselves as they start acting as if they were drowning.
Things are constantly happening around us that we filter through our previous experiences and the things we (subconsciously) think we’ve learnt from them. More often than not we react rather than choose our response. Instead of “looking from a distance” at what people around us are doing, we immediately respond to it emotionally. We get shy, angry, talk non-stop, or do whatever else we’re programmed to do. Whatever our survival mechanisms figured out worked.
Unfortunately our brain and ego get a lot of things wrong. The “instinct” that tells you to hide in a corner when you see a cute guy is actually ruining your chances of getting that cute guy. Underneath that “instinct” there are thoughts telling you that you can’t have the guy, that you’re inferior, or that you aren’t good enough…whatever it may be. So even though your heart gets happy seeing the guy, you react opposite to how you should react if you want the guy. Because somewhere along the road something happened that made you want to protect yourself and hide away. Then, by hiding, you’re proving your thoughts to be true, because no one will see you. So you can sit in your corner thinking you’re unlovable all night long.
In short, somewhere inside there’s a nugget of discomfort and you react by talking to much, hiding away, getting angry…whatever you got programmed to do to either numb it, hide it, or try to get away from it. As a result, you tend to get the results that prove the very thought causing you discomfort to be true.
Overcoming Your Beliefs
The first step to overcoming beliefs that don’t help you live your life, is to disengage. Become mindful. Don’t react. When having a conversation with someone, mentally take a step back and observe them. When you’re at work, take a step back and observe your own thoughts that are running around in the back of your head. Have an alarm on your phone that goes off ever so often to remind you to check in on how your are feeling and the thoughts causing it.
More than anything, whatever you feel, don’t suppress it. Don’t act on, it, but don’t try to force it to go away. Hang with it. See what it feels like. You see, the funny thing is, as soon as you acknowledge something it starts dissipating. It loses its control over you. Sure, it’s not always comfortable to look at an emotion, but if you don’t look, it’s going to get stored away in your subconscious and you’re going to act on it.
Think about it this way. Your boyfriend does something and it hurts you. You feel angry and sad. You want to yell at him and hurt him for hurting you. You want him to feel your pain.
First of all, your boyfriend might have hurt you unintentionally. Secondly, if you pour your pain and anger at him, he’ll feel pain and anger. End result? You’re both suffering. Do you think that will improve your relationship? Probably not, right. But when you were all angry and sad and yelled at him, didn’t you want him to understand so that things would get better? Sure you did, it’s just the way you’re programmed to act doesn’t lead to that result. The result you’ll get is more pain. More anger. More hurt.
If you instead step into your heart and feel the pain, all those emotions will blow by. You will find your inner self. The one that isn’t damaged just because whatever your boyfriend did. You will find you. And you will find love.
After you’ve done that, you can share your pain with your boyfriend. No guilt provoking. No anger. Just showing your beautiful heart and at the same time sharing that what he just did caused you pain, whether he meant it or not. You love him. You really do. You’d like to build a happy relationship with him. Does he think you can do that? Is he willing to love and let go of whatever habit/reactions (most reactions stem from habitual thinking as opposed to a rational analysis of what’s going on) that hurt you?
If your boyfriend loves you he will be sorry he hurt you. He might retort to defending himself at first as he’ll be expecting anger from you. If he defends himself he won’t owe up to what he did. So show that you have no intention of punishing him.
People sometimes think anger makes you strong. It doesn’t. Saying no and not accepting certain behaviors do. You don’t need anger for that. Anger only causes more pain. It’s there to show us something is wrong and it’s healthy as if you’re in a life or death situation you need that energy, but it’s not healthy to let the anger rule your life.
Similarly, when you see that cute guy and want to hide between a book, feel the emotion. Feel the shame, or unworthiness that is lodged in you. Feel it and find your inner self. The heart. The beautiful you. And sit there loving that self like you would a child. An innocent, beautiful child with a gorgeous heart. You’re not ugly, or unworthy, or anything else. Maybe your programming got wrong somewhere and you did things you don’t like. Things you aren’t proud of. That doesn’t mean you’re bad. Your heart isn’t bad. No one’s heart is.
How to Be You
Apart from constantly stopping to feel your emotions and letting them evaporate before you act on something, a great exercise is to contemplate your day to help program yourself to stay tuned to your heart. In the morning, sit down, close your eyes and feel your way through the day; what you’d like to feel as you do what you intend to do that day. In the evening, sit down and close your eyes, reflecting on the day and how you felt throughout it. If you didn’t like some of your reactions, rethink them. In your mind think how you’d like to have reacted.
By doing this exercise you’re training your mind, or reprogramming it if you so like. My principal in drama school used to say about the mind: “It takes control over you, until you take control over it.” It’s true. You don’t have to react to your thoughts. They’re just thoughts. Half of the time they aren’t even a true reflection of reality. I once read a book that advised against regular therapy because it made people depressed to sit around discussing their problems, or their negative thoughts surrounding something. You have to face your emotions though, otherwise you suppress them (so when you walk into a bar alone, feeling uncomfortable, rather than running and hiding, you simply stand there, feeling uncomfortable – acknowledge it until it goes away), but then start thinking about something else.
No, the guy you just stopped dating isn’t the only guy in the world. It feels like that, but it isn’t true. And, no telling yourself he was our one and only destined true love doesn’t help. What if, instead, you could think there could be something even better? How would that make you feel? And beyond that you are still you. Your essence. And if you slowly breathe, smell, taste, hear, feel, what’s around you, what’s there now? How do you feel? In your core?
In short, being you is about stopping the chatter of the mind and stepping into your heart. As you do, you’ll find you also start hearing your intuition again.
Once you start finding yourself a good exercise is also to go somewhere new where no one knows you. That way you can explore being you without people assuming you’re a certain way.